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Science organisations refute criticisms

Science organisations have hit back at what they regard as unfair and unbalanced criticisms published by a researcher and a politician in German newspapers.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany’s largest public research funder, published a statement on 27 October refuting several newspaper articles by Roland Reuss, a literature researcher at the University of Heidelberg, accusing the DFG of arbitrary and insufficient funding.

The DFG said a funding application by Reuss for a literature research project had been rejected earlier this year, and he had been asked to resubmit and improve his proposal.

In a 15-page analysis of the Reuss articles, the DFG detailed all the criticisms, explained their background and dismissed most of the claims.

The organisation said its choice of project assessors was transparent and public, and not secret, as Reuss had stated.

It also said that researchers who were refused funding received the project assessment files and a detailed explanation of the institution’s decision. Reuss had claimed that researchers were left in the dark about the basis of DFG decisions.

The DFG invited other researchers to put forward their comments and experiences of working with the organisation. In a statement the organisation said it wanted to correct “baseless criticism”.

On 29 October the Leopoldina, the German academy of science, issued a separate statement in the name of Germany’s Alliance of Science Organisations, opposing a newspaper article by Günter Krings, a conservative CDU politician, which claimed that open access benefited publishers but was damaging to science.

The Leopoldina said that the article showed basic misunderstandings of the open access publishing system and gave a skewed picture of the business interests of publishing houses.

In answer to Krings’ claims that publishing houses gained from open access publishing by charging fees for editing, the Leopoldina said that most of the work was done by scientists for free and there was no charge on the public purse.

The Krings article also referred to the Reuss criticisms, and the Leopoldina used its statement to distance itself from these views.

“The Alliance of Science Organisations refutes these criticisms in the strongest possible way,” the statement said.